4 Great Foods to Eat When You Are Sick and 4 to Avoid

We’re well into the start of school and fall, which also means it’s also time for flu season. If you have yet to get your flu shot, be sure to do so soon, both you and your entire family! But even before or after getting a vaccination, there’s always the possibility of catching a cold or stomach bug that’s going around.

When you’re feeling weak with chills, achy, or just plain done with a runny nose, sore throat, and cold, eating the right diet can help improve your symptoms sooner. At the same time, the wrong foods can weaken your immune system’s ability to fight a virus or bacteria.

Keep reading to read what foods you should be eating when you or a family member is sick and which foods to avoid altogether.

1. Eat Foods Rich with Vitamin C, but Avoid Acidic Drinks

Eating or drinking vitamin C unfortunately won’t prevent you from getting a cold. However, citrus foods like oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits that are rich with Vitamin C can be a great boost to your immune system to fight the common cold. For many individuals, it’s been proven to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

But if it’s a stomach flu that has you under the weather, the high acidity in some of these fruits and juices can aggravate stomach pain. So hold back on the orange juice if you do find it upsetting your stomach or if you have been vomiting.

2. Eat Hot Chicken Noodle Soup, but Avoid Sugar and Sweets

Why has chicken noodle soup become such a staple food when we’re feeling unwell? Sometimes, it feels like even just inhaling the smell of chicken noodle soup or other broth-based soups makes us feel a little better.

Actually, studies show that hot liquids, particularly hot chicken broth soups, improve mucus congestion to clear nasal cavities. This proves true when the soup is ingested or when an individual smells the aroma of the soup. The warm liquids are also soothing to a sore throat.

Hot chicken noodle soup provides a fantastic meal to supply you with nutrients and calories when sick, while also keeping you hydrated and feeling less stuffy. On the other hand, switching out this savory option with cookies, candies, ice cream, or other sweets can have the opposite effect. These may seem like comfort foods, but too much sugar can inflame your stomach and cause your immune system to work harder.

3. Drink Hot Tea, but Avoid Caffeinated Drinks

For the reasons mentioned above, drinking hot tea is another good choice of drink when you have a cold or stuffy nose. Hot ginger tea can help soothe a sore throat and clear your nose like hot chicken soup. Ginger is also a great food for calming an upset stomach. Green tea is another option with antioxidants to help relieve some of your cold symptoms.

Stick with hot teas that have lower caffeine levels, though. If you’re trying to stay hydrated on caffeinated drinks like soda or coffee, these drinks may be having the opposite effect. Caffeine can actually dehydrate your body quicker. The high levels of sodium in a lot of these drinks can also negatively affect your immune system’s ability to fight back against a virus or bacteria.

4. Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, but Avoid Processed Foods

It’s more work for you to wash and prep fruits and veggies when you’re not feeling well, but these fresh foods are packed with the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to recover. Choose fruits and vegetables with dark, rich colors like blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, kale, and spinach.

When you can, avoid snacking on processed foods like bags of chips, canned food, and even saltines. These foods may not have high sugar levels like cookies or candy, but they have been filled with salt and sodium along with other preservatives that may hinder your body from healing quickly.

Talk with Your Family Doctor

It can be hard when you’re feeling ill to keep down food at all. Eat the foods mentioned above little by little, rather than eating too much all at once. For more ideas on what to eat and what foods to avoid when sick, discuss it with your family doctor.

A family practice doctor like those at Callahan Clinic can look at your entire body holistically. With their help, you can come up with a personalized diet plan to improve your health now before your body gets sick. If you are in St. George or southern Utah, schedule a consultation appointment with our caring family doctors. Begin today to strengthen your immune system with the right foods!


  1. https://greatist.com/health/best-foods-eat-when-sick#basics
  2. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/359266
  4. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-foods-cold
  5. https://www.myrecipes.com/healthy-diet/food-to-avoid-when-you-are-sick